Edible underwear wasn’t supposed to be a real thing. It was an off-hand joke that blossomed between two Chicago artists (Lee Brady and David Sanderson) in 1972, as they sat around discussing the phrase “eat my shorts.” What if someone’s shorts were literally edible? They cobbled together an interpretation and displayed it in the window of a friend’s shop as a piece of concept art, a conversation-starter.
Then a student at the University of Indiana bought it and wrote about it for a local paper with AP syndication. Put in today’s terms, edible underwear went viral. Then it became real.
In “A Matter of Taste: Inside the Edible Sex Toy Industry,” writer Jaya Saxena tells the story of how several companies pioneered edible sex products starting in the early ’70s. Sanderson and Brady, for instance, worked with an industrial baking company to develop the perfect material that would both hold flavor and behave like clothing. When the product was finally ready for consumption, they named their company Candypants.
They weren’t the only ones focused on making sex more delicious. Around that same time, a group of friends attended a party in which attendees used Wesson cooking oil as a lubricant. It was slippery and effective, but it didn’t taste very good. To improve upon that, they founded a company called Kama Sutra. Their first releases were Oil of Love, massage oils, and “honey dust.” In advertisements, Kama Sutra claimed their products would “startle your sense of touch without offending your sense of taste.”
The next frontier? Condoms. Lifestyles added a “Kiss of Mint” condom to their catalog in 1988, followed closely by flavored condoms by Durex in 1995. But with a product designed specifically for internal use, the downfall of flavored sex products became clear: sugar. Sugars (and ingredients, like glycerin, which behave like sugars) feed yeast, which can lead to yeast infections and other irritation.
It was easy with Candypants: market research proved that 85% of customers never even opened the box. Plus, when products are simply worn — as in the case of candy nipple tassels, love rings, cuffs, and necklaces — there’s no real cause for concern. But truly combining flavor and safety? That, Saxena believes, is the holy grail:
The ideal flavored sexual product is one that can be used safely on (and in) all areas of the body, and that actually tastes good. This is the brass ring the industry has been chasing since 1969, and one that seems increasingly appealing in our artisanal food- driven world. What’s the good of flavored body paint if you have to wash it off before you have sex, but also, what’s the point of flavored body paint if it tastes like artificial banana? The general public has become pickier about good taste. We have aioli on Wendy’s sandwiches and want our ingredients to be organic and naturally sourced. Why would that change when it comes to products we’re licking off each other?
. . . Perhaps, like the sex toy industry, the edibles industry will rebrand itself with high-end products at high-end prices: farm-to-table massage oils, fair-trade fruit leather bras, soylent pasties.
Saxena’s vision isn’t entirely impossible — or implausible. We already have lubricants like Hathor Lube Lickeurs and Blossom Organics, which are sweetened with Stevia and serve as a more body-friendly alternative to flavored condoms. Organic lubes and massage oils are safe to ingest. We stock a body chocolate that is made with ingredients we can pronounce, and a natural honey dust that is made locally. Some of our massage candles produce an edible, flavored oil.
But it’s important to make the distinction between products designed for internal use and those meant only for external application. Massage oil is great for a back rub, but can clog pores if used vaginally or anally. Water-based lube is perfect for penetration, but will likely get sticky if used for body massage. A few products can serve both purposes, but those are rare.
Still, as Saxena’s piece emphasizes, companies like Candypants and Kama Sutra did more than peddle sweets: they brought some much-needed fun into our sex lives. Simply by existing, they inspired couples to try something new, something silly. Even in 2016, four decades after Brady and Sanderson’s oddball idea, parading around in front of your partner wearing pair of edible underwear is sure to put a smile on their face.